@Listvyanka, Russia 🇷🇺
Time to get down the train. It’s a mix of relief, anticipation, jet lag and lack of sleep that will carry me through this day. I am in the good company of Johannes, Dennis and Victor, friends I met in the train. We decide to team up towards Listvyanka, and to enjoy an evening there. After failing to get a boat, we embark on a very shaky bus towards the lake. We are weighted with our huge backpacks, but full of motivation, smiles and laughs. You should have seen us in these tiny busses, blocking the way, not understanding anything and laughing our asses off 😂good times!
Some time later, we finally arrive in this little village which is structured a bit like a comb. A big main street is following the lakeshore, from which branch several small streets going inland, all in a very weird mix of makeshift houses in metal plates, and brand new hotels with shiny golden windows. The first sights of the lake are impressive. We have hard times believing that this actually is a lake and not a sea. This feeling will persist and accompany us for the following days.
Time to enjoy. We bath our toes in the ice-cold lake, share some vodka to keep us motivated, and go visit the fish market. Then, at the edge of the village, we observe a magnificent sunset, drinking beers and eating some omul. Omul is a special fish that only lives in the Baikal Lake, and is of the salmon family. A real pleasure to eat, smoked, dried or cooked. It is supposed so be forbidden to fish it, legally, but locals seem to tolerate it.
The evening continues in a local bar, where we share good times, play cards, and taste the regional spirits. Before we even realise it, we have to split up with the boys, as Johannes and Dennis leave tomorrow towards Irkutsk and Mongolia. Time flies when you travel, and when your paths separate you from friends met on the road, it’s always too early to say goodbye.
It’s a bit hard to wake up today. There is no hot water. The Wi-Fi doesn’t work. The bania (local sauna) doesn’t work. I’ve seen hostels with better facilities 🤦. Yet, when I get down in the kitchen, I’m welcomed by a very friendly group of ladies, and begin chatting as I brew my coffee. Some minutes later, I have a feeling that I haven’t had since my travels in Finland, almost four years ago, when I met a bunch of incredible people in Tallinn. A feeling of strong social bond, of enthusiasm, which arises when a group of people from all around the world suddenly meets and forms a joyful band that will share wonderful memories. Marion, Luisa, Vassa, Annika, Scott, Nicolina, Victor, Elise and I are getting along so well! Discussions, travel tips, life story exchanges and laughs fill the common room with a warm atmosphere. I feel so thankful to be here!
Luisa and Vassa even managed to knock at all the neighboring doors and find a local Russian that is okay to make us discover Bania! We meet there in the evening for a memorable moment. Nokolai welcomes us with a very goofy and funny style, as we whip ourselves with birch branches in a room heated at 120 degrees Celsius, get scrubbed with a very abrasive sponge, and jump into an ice-cold pool outside, where it’s nearly freezing! That moment, the bania family was created 😁Time for me to book more night in that disappointing hostel, just because people are so great 🙃
After a good night, we decide to go for a local 24 km scenic hike along the lakeshore, towards a small town called Bolshe koty. The air is fresh, the sun is shining, and we walk through birch forests covered in colors. White, red, yellows, greens and browns mix into a memorable landscape, contrasting with the deep blue of the lake, adding a sound of waves crushing against the coast in the background. The day couldn’t be nicer. The walk goes nicely, and as we start to feel our legs, we arrive in the village. We arrange a boat back to Listvyanka, and get a well-deserved beer, waiting for the boat on the coast. Beer always tastes better when you deserve it, after a long day of efforts!
The panorama is so wide open that we can see the mountains in the distance and their snow-covered peaks, proof that this is indeed a lake, but it’s still hard to believe. A lake 3/4 of the size of Switzerland. Such a wonder to witness.
After this adventure, it’s already time for the bania team to split up, with some going to Vladivostok, some to Mongolia and china, some staying a bit more. But luckily, some of us will keep on meeting in the next countries, and we will all continue sharing our memories and experiences, thanks to the miracle of internet!
Morning is for coffee and contemplation.Chief Hopper, Stranger things
Today is a slow day. Laundry, nap, writing, small walk to the café, meet new American friends, meet Lukas our new Swiss neighbor, sleep. Tomorrow, Lukas and I will go to Olkhon Island, and stay some days there. But tomorrow is another day.